Pakistan's second wave of coronavirus infections gathers momentum

KARACHI, Pakistan, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Pakistan’s recorded its highest number of daily COVID-19 infections since July on each of the last four days as a second wave of the epidemic gathered momentum, data released on Monday showed.

There were 2,128 new cases registered on Sunday, the fourth day that the daily increase has been above 2,000.

More than 7% of people tested on Sunday were found to have contracted the virus, compared with between 2% and 3% during most of the last four months.

“No one followed safety precautions, and we are seeing the results. It is high time people realise, or we will continue to suffer,” Dr Seemin Jamali, Executive Director of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center, which deals with COVID-19 cases in the country’s largest city of Karachi, told Reuters.

After a peak of over 6,800 daily infections in June, the number fell to a low of 213 in August, and remained below 700 for most of the last three months.

The country has registered 359,032 cases in total and 7,160 deaths from the respiratory disease.

Earlier this month, the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan ruled out a complete lockdown and decided to continue the “smart lockdown” policy with strict implementation of safety guidelines given by the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) - the federal government’s central body dealing with the pandemic.

The country’s last comprehensive lockdown was lifted in May.

Several huge religious and anti-government public rallies have been held in major cities in recent weeks.

“NCOC has once again recommended to ban all large public gatherings. The rapid increase in positivity requires urgent steps to save lives and livelihoods,” Asad Umar, Pakistan’s planning minister said last week.

Late last month, Umar said the second wave had arrived and sought citizens’ help in implementing safety guidelines in public spaces. (Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Editing by Gibran Peshimam and Simon Cameron-Moore)